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Forging Connections to Coordinate Relief Efforts

Ooredoo Group CEO Dr. Nasser Marafih talks with Developing Telecoms about Ooredoo's approach to its operation-wide relief efforts during crises.

Connected Citizens – Managing Crisis is the latest special report from Developing Telecoms. It explores how communications can empower citizens during natural disasters or within other high-risk situations such as conflict zones.

The report features interviews with a number of world leading experts on the subject, including Ooredoo group CEO Dr. Nasser Marafih, who explained about the group’s practices for its operation-wide relief efforts. A longer version of this interview can be read in full in the report which is now available to download free of charge.

Can you describe the experience Ooredoo has gained in managing crises both directly and through its subsidiary operators around the world?

Our approach to supporting affected people in crises can broadly be divided into two fields; firstly providing technology and connectivity and secondly supporting this with humanitarian aid. In Iraq, where there are currently over 3 million internally displaced persons (“IDPs”), Asiacell, part of Ooredoo Group, distributed 10,000 free SIM cards equipped with a free SMS notification service offering vital information for IDPs and refugees.

Ooredoo has also provided strong support in Indonesia through its operating company, Indosat. In 2010, Ooredoo provided support for people in Yogyakarta followed the eruption of the Mount Merapi volcano that forced the evacuation of 350,000 people. Since 2012, Indosat has deployed its mobile clinics and in some instances free mobile access to help people in Indonesia forced from their homes by heavy flooding.

Can you share any recent examples of ways in which ‘Connected Citizens’ in collaboration with Ooredoo have contributed to better crisis management?

Access to mobile network services can be a lifeline for those affected by crisis. Interestingly, when Iraqi refugees were asked about their urgent needs in a recent poll, mobile charging stations were the main form of help they requested after food and water. As a result, aid agencies rushed to include solar-powered mobile chargers in emergency relief packages. In Nepal in May of this year, Ooredoo connected citizens in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake struck the country. Using VSAT technology our group member Indosat was able to establish an emergency internet connection, helping connect survivors and emergency aid services alike. Access to mobile communications played a key part in Nepal’s response to the crisis and with the help of mobile technology, families were reconnected with their loved ones and aid efforts were able to be directed to those most in need.

Ooredoo Maldives’ M2M and communications technology also recently helped in the aftermath of a severe water crisis in Malé. To help alleviate the crisis, Ooredoo Maldives created a Water Crisis Helpline to provide information about the crisis to concerned or affected citizens. The team also deployed M2M technology to locate water trucks distributing bottled water across the island, combining this with communications technology to share the location with citizens. This helped people to access water while also mitigating the risk of rising tensions and public unrest in response to a sporadic and unpredictable delivery service.

What are the most important lessons has Ooredoo learned from its experiences in crisis management?

Preparedness pays off! Part of our ability to respond so effectively in the Maldives was because eight months prior to the crisis, our Business Continuity Management team had proactively created a framework plan for action. Additionally, a rapid response and ability to react to the situation as it unfolds is crucial to delivering an effective service and meaningful support. Minimising down-time is critical. We see huge value in mobile operators being included in national emergency committee meetings and see considerable scope for greater collaboration between governments and network operators in the planning and preparedness phases. Through this first-hand experience we are gaining a better understanding of the potential our networks have to play a supportive role both during and in the aftermath of a crisis. Enabling affected communities, governments and aid workers to access the internet, make a phone call or send a text is a vital part of crisis management and the humanitarian response which follows.

The full version of this interview can be read in our Connected Citizens Report – click here to download it for free.

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